Recently, comScore released its Mobile App Report for 2017. Here, we’ll take a closer look at each major section of that report.
Of all the time people spend with digital media, 57 percent of it is spent with mobile apps. The vast majority of that time is spent in smartphone apps, while tablets apps get very little attention.
Smartphones are the preferred device of Millennials, who spend a lot of time using smartphone apps. In fact, younger Millennials spend 66 percent of their digital media time accessing them.
Mobile apps overall are a big draw, getting more than three hours of younger Millennials’ daily time and an average of more than two hours a day across all age groups.
Mobile apps are preferred over the mobile web on both tablets and smartphones. However, the preference is slightly more pronounced on smartphones (six percentage points).
The top mobile apps see 16 times more minutes of use than the top mobile websites. Yet, interestingly, mobile web draws more than twice as many unique visitors.
Users spend more time in the top 10 mobile apps than the top 10 mobile websites or desktop sites. Mobile and desktop websites ranking 500 and below, however, see a decent amount of user time, while such low-ranking mobile apps get less than 10 percent.
App Download Habits
Smartphone apps aren’t getting downloaded at high rates, with 51 percent of smartphone users not downloading any in a month’s time and the average user downloading only two apps a month.
App discovery is also down, whether it’s in app stores, through word-of-mouth or by advertisements and marketing.
Millennials are far more interested in new apps than older generations are. They are almost twice as excited by them as Generation X and approximately three times as excited as Baby Boomers.
Millennials are also more willing to pay for apps, as 20 percent pays for one app per month. Only 3 percent of Gen Xers and 1 percent of Baby Boomers purchase apps at that rate.
Once inside their apps, Millennials are also more likely to buy things. Almost half of them make five or more in-app purchases annually, compared with 15 percent of Gen Xers and 5 percent of Baby Boomers.
While Millennials continue to add apps to their devices, older users are slowing their installs, and may actually delete more apps than they download.
At the same time, the reasons for deleting apps are relatively similar across age groups, with infrequent usage being the most common reason.
One reason for deletion was far more common among Millennials than older generations: Disliking how the app logo looks on the home screen.
App Usage Habits
Smartphone users spend half of their digital time with their No. 1 app, while tablet users spend 65 percent of their digital time with theirs. Though less-favored apps see far less time on both devices, smartphone users do access a greater variety of apps overall.
Still, it takes users’ top 10 apps to account for most (96 and 97 percent) of their digital time.
Most app users access 20 or fewer apps in a month’s time, though nearly half of Millennials exceed that.
Even though they use more apps than older generations, Millennials maintain fewer screens on their phones by a small percentage. They are significantly more likely than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to organize their apps into folders.
Folder use has increased across all generations since 2016, however. The rate of adoption is simply higher among Millennials.
Generally, No. 1 apps are kept on the home screen of a smartphone (by 67 percent of users). Since 2016, the number of users keeping their favorite app in a folder (on the home screen or a secondary screen) has increased 3 percent.
At the same time, users are more often strategically moving frequently-used apps to the home screen. This action has increased 5 percent since 2016.
Baby Boomers are five times as likely as Millennials to operate their smartphone with two hands. Along with this, Millennials position apps based on “thumb reach” at increasing rates (up 13 percent from 2016). Millennials are also most likely to use their phone’s reachability feature – especially on an iPhone.
Not surprisingly, Millennials are the generation with the most signs of “app addiction.”
A weariness with push notifications in 2016 was reversed this year. Now, 43 percent of users always or often allow apps to use push notifications. Perhaps, comScore speculates, the rate of current events encourages people to stay more connected.
Millennials are the most permissive of push notifications, yet are also the most annoyed when they see too many for their taste.
Top and Fast-Growing Apps
As expected, Google and Facebook own eight of the top 10 apps, with Facebook keeping its spot at the No. 1 app in terms of monthly users. It also ranks first with all age groups except those aged 18-24, who have YouTube as their No. 1.
Different age groups prefer different kinds of apps. Younger adults prefer social and entertainment apps, while older adults lean toward news and retail apps.
Users will readily say Facebook is their most essential app (and thus, put it on their home screen), but beyond that seem to value function over entertainment (this includes Millennials). Other “essential” apps include Gmail, Amazon (35 percent of Millennials “can’t go without” it) and Google Maps.
comScore goes on to point out the high correlation between how “essential” an app is and how likely it is to be on the home screen.
The most prominent fast-growing apps today tend to be marketplaces and services that thrive on networks.
App Content Categories
The top six app content categories represent about 66 percent of time spent on apps, and are focused on entertainment or communication.
Engagement is transitioning to apps in many content categories. Maps, messengers and music have the highest shares in app time, but news has had the most noticeable increase in its mobile app timeshare.
To wrap up, comScore leaves advertisers with these three takeaways:
- Mobile apps are the primary drivers of digital media consumption, but activity is concentrated.
- More signs of reaching “peak app” are emerging as interest in new apps begins to wane.
- Millennials prove to be the most engaged, sophisticated and addicted app users.
Advertising in Apps
In closing, we’ll point you toward the AdWords files on showing your apps in ads, as well as our previous posts on comparing mobile apps with the mobile web and apps and the future of advertising. As you can see from the report, apps are a major hotspot when it comes to today’s digital advertising.